We had one of our rare snows this winter in February. They happen about once every four years or so and the snow doesn’t usually stick for long. This time we had a fun 6 inches or so, but it only lasted about 8 hours. Which is actually perfect for me.
This week I managed to get out in the garden a bit. I Loooove my garden. It’s really slow goin’ this year. The nights are still chilly here in the desert, and I’m super busy with all the magickal and art crafting as well as finishing up the drywall in my new bedroom! My neighbor, bless him, is starting my seeds for me this year. He has a full greenhouse with all the nifty lights and the space! So he’s starting my 100 or so Anaheim Chile seeds, and 6 each of 5 tomato varieties, both heirloom and stable hybrid. Everything else will be direct seeded on April or May, depending on the weather. I’ve got a lot of new herbs to put in, along with my usual cukes and squash and peas and melons. But right now I need to get a layer of composted mulch down on my asparagus beds, and that brings me to today’s topic. Compost!
You know I loves me some magical transformation of trash into treasure- art, all that’s green is gold in Thorne’s World, don’tcha know. I can’t help but share a little Green Goodness today. Compost. Black gold, (we don’t need no stinkin’ oil!) baybee!
There are about a million different ways to make compost, it seems. If you Google it you may soon be overwhelmed by the variety of opinions and the types of composters; barrels and bins and cages; above or below ground. To turn or not to turn? To add newspaper? To layer or not to layer?
You might, like me, find yourself drowning in a sea of terms; anaerobic, biologic factors, microbial activity… I try to keep it simple in thornesworld.
It’s really not that difficult.
Left to its own devices nature creates compost anywhere a pile of leaves or bracken rests long enough. I think we tend to make things too difficult sometimes. It’s true that the way you do your compost and the materials you add will affect the temperature and amount of time it takes to degrade and become good for your garden, but when it comes to compost a little common sense goes a long way.
Out here on the ranch, We have a variety of compost areas and methods, but since we have plenty of space and lots of time, I don’t worry too much about my compost. I have BIG piles of weeds and bracken that are patiently awaiting the lawnmower to chop them down to size. They are, of course, composting in their nether reaches while they wait.
I have the heap in the corner of the pumpkin/someday goat yard of wild mustard, green tumbleweeds, kitchen scrap and the mess of newspapers and bird seed, food and droppings that I clean from the cage bottom of Sam, my rescued parrot. (The wild pigeons, doves, quail, ravens and crows love to feast on the leftovers, and help to shred the newspapers for quicker composting.) This one requires occasional watering if we’re short on rain (which we usually are) and then I fork the top foot or so back to shovel out the good compost underneath. Then I sift it through 1/2 inch hardware cloth and toss any big chunks back in to finish composting.
Then there is the load of wood chips that is slowly turning to compost, and the horse manure that the local feed stores and dude ranches are happy to let me haul off for free, and the couple of piles out in the corners of the yard that I never quite got around to hauling over the compost cage above. These large piles will be mixed and mashed and shredded and mown and watered and turned eventually to compost.
I can almost hear you all yelling,
“But we don’t have that much space, (or time, or patience)!”
The biggest problem most folks seem to have tends to happen when their compost piles get too big to deal with. My advice is to start small and take what you learn with you as your composting “grows up”! Probably the easiest and most quickly efficient method is what I call my bag method.
I start with a plastic or vinyl feed or potting soil bag, but a heavy duty lawn bag or two works just as well. Start with a few inches of soil in the bag. I generally use the worn out potting soil from when I’m re-potting in the spring and throughout the year.
First I toss in all the brown clippings and trimmings from the potted plants I’m sprucing up. Then the weeds I pull walking back and forth to the mailbox or taking the dogs for a run.
Coffee grounds and kitchen waste (I tend to avoid meat products in all of my compost, although that is another matter for much controversy. I’d just as soon skip the flies, and maggots are just gross). I really love this little kitchen compost bin. It’s got a charcoal filter in the lid to keep odors in. Plus. Stainless steel, am I right?
When there’s a sloppy bunch of kitchen scraps- coffee grounds, tea bags, potato or other vegetable peels and fruit trimmings I usually toss in some more soil to keep the smell and flies down. I often put a few scoops of rabbit poop in, too. This does sort of follow the “layered” technique, but not because I really work at it, it just seems to happen that way. It usually takes me only a few days to a week at most to fill the bag. I water it a bit and then tie the top up tight and set the bag in the garden in the sun.
As soon as one bag is full, I start another. If you run the kitchen waste through a food processor each bag becomes pretty much fully composted in 2 weeks or so. If you toss larger pieces of kitchen waste in your compost bag give it a month. If there are any large chunks of plant matter that haven’t fully broken down when I open the bags, I sift them into a working bag and let them go another round!
This quick and easy compost method makes great potting soil, compost for flower beds, raised vegetable beds; just about any small gardening area you can think of.
Once you have mastered the compost bag technique, it is pretty simple to move to larger quantities as space permits. Just keep the same balance going that works for the bags.
I’m about to start a little kitchen worm farm, and chickens are coming to thornesworld this year, so I’ll let you know how that goes once we get rolling. I hear chickens make short work of weeds and kitchen scraps. I can’t wait!
Got a special method that works for you? I’d love to hear your experiences with composting so don’t be shy, leave me a comment!